Videogames on Wheels

One of the more interesting pieces of technology depicted in Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End is that which allows users to put a skin over reality, just as we currently choose different themes for our operating systems and web browsers. Thanks to some smart people working out of the Universität der Künste Berlin ("The Berlin University of the Arts"), we're one step closer to making that happen.

From the description of their project: Carcade is a concept for an in-car videogame for the passengers, which captures the landscape and uses it as a videogame environment. Existing objects, for example trees and architecture, are recognized by the camera and enhanced by videogame assets. The game is influenced by the manner of driving of the car. If the driver accelerates, the game becomes increasingly difficult. If the car comes to a stop a different game situation evolves. We developed a small game concept and a functional prototype, with which we did a test drive on the street. A webcam is connected to a laptop running camera tracking software which recognizes the horizon and objects in the environment. The player has to maneuver a spaceship and collect points whilst trying to avoid crashing into oncoming enemies.

It is still early days, but watching their video will help you understand the technology a bit better. As it advances, that boring prairie drive between Calgary and Edmonton could become a lot more interesting if it took the form of a space battle, jungle cruise or otherwise more-scenic route instead.

In order to further cement the relationship between videogames and driving, iTWire reports (via /.) that a car designed for the Playstation 3 game Gran Turismo 5 Prologue has made into real life and was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show. It isn't just a fantasy car, either. Apparently the GTbyCITROËN handles the same in real life as in the the game.

If you've played the Gran Turismo series of games, you'll know exactly how hyper-realistic they are. In fact, I'm pretty sure I learned more about driving through the original Gran Turismo for PS1 than I did from the driving lessons I took when I was sixteen.

I'm probably not the only one that thinks that way, either. According to this CNN story, Allstate insurance will start offering specialized computer games to older drivers and that this could end up lowering their rates.